Challenging the notion that it’s beneficial to a society to have every citizen highly educated *UPDATED*

This is a somewhat random post, since I’m mushing an idea around in my mind, and would love to have your input.

The start for this post is my upbringing.  I was raised in a European household (although that household was located in America).  Both my parents came from the educated class, but both were comfortable with the European notion of trade schools.  In Europe, of course, this notion had been tied to class.  The upper class got the “no calluses” education of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic; the lower classes learned how to repair things.

Putting aside class considerations, I always thought that trade schools were a good thing.  It was obvious to me early on that not all people care about literary symbolism, nor are they lives improved by understanding photosynthesis.

For someone to be a master plumber is much better than to be a bored, angry, failed student.  The former results in a happy, productive member of society; the latter creates disaffected losers with serious inferiority complexes.  I never advocated the forced sorting that happened in Europe — based on tests administered to 11 year olds, kids were sorted between academic and trade schools — but I really liked the idea of honoring trade and making it a viable education path in the public school system.

My idealized education goals notwithstanding, the system we have is one that promises “free” education (i.e., taxpayer funded education) for all American children (plus a few illegals) through the age of 17 or 18.  The theory underlying that promise, obviously, is that an “educated” citizen is a better citizen. I don’t see this Kindergarten through 12th grade system changing anytime soon.

As it is, I do believe that every American should be able to read and write with basic competency, and should be able to do sufficient math to manage finances, whether for a household or a small business.  But again, does every American need to know calculus or Virginia Woolf?  Calculus is useful for scientific applications, so it probably has practical benefits, at least for some people.  Knowing Virginia Woolf, whole, while it might add to the mental furniture in the student’s mind, is not going to have any significant effect on America at large.

My wandering ruminations aren’t completely meaningless.  One of the Left’s explicitly stated goals is to make entirely taxpayer funded education available at the college/university level too.  In this regard, the Leftists are chasing after the European model.  They are undeterred in this regard by the fact that the European model is collapsing.

The hardcore Left wants universal university education because that’s the breeding ground for future Leftists.  The soft Left, however, wants universal university education just because of mealy-mouthed platitudes such as “everyone should have an education,” or “it’s only fair,” or “it’s good for America if everyone is educated.”

The Left keeps challenging us to ask “How rich is too rich?” and conservatives should say that this question should never be answered by the government.  (Apologies if the link is behind a pay wall.  William McGurn looks at Bernie Saunder’s speech as a starting point for Leftist money grabs from those the Left deems “too rich.”)  However, as citizens, because we’re called upon to pay for public education (a completely different notion from citizens being forced to give their wealth to a collectivist government), it’s entirely reasonable for us to ask “How educated is too educated?”  At what point should the taxpayer be off the hook when it comes to public education?  When are the vast majority of Americans sufficiently educated to contribute to day-to-day American functionality, without further gilding the educational lily?

I promised you an incoherent post and I delivered on my promise.  I would love it if you could add your thoughts about higher education, public education, trade schools, etc.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

UPDATEThis, about the CBO’s war against technical colleges, seems apropos.

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  • FunkyPhD

    As an extremely educated person who has spent the last 25 years as a university teacher, I would like nothing better than to make college education less accessible and expected than it currently is.  Educational buck-passing is the disastrous consequence of the expectation that everyone goes to college.  College-prep creep pushes useful education in trades out of the secondary curriculum; and the students who are not temperamentally suited for or intellectually capable of a university course of study are passed along by their teachers, who reassure themselves that even if their students can’t read or write at a level sufficient for college, they’ll pick up what they need “later on,” when they get to the university.  Book, I went to Berkeley at about the same time that you did; what I am able to demand of my students today is at most one-tenth–in terms of both volume and intellectual complexity–of what was demanded of me thirty-five years ago.  If college were harder to get into, and less expected as part of a middle-class person’s complement of accomplishments, elementary and secondary schools would have actually to teach something–how to read and write at a level that equips them to make rational critical judgements about public affairs, and to make money doing something that matches their skills and temperament.

  • Ymarsakar

    There shouldn’t even be college prep since from my experience, that just means people who make C averages in their GPA.
    The gifted and Ap programs for high school should be college designated.
    Everything else should be trades or learning on the job skills. As in actually working at an internship.

  • David Foster

    One complexity: In the US, the college degree plays a very important role in mate-selection. A high % of college graduates would not consider marrying a non-college-graduate, even if that personal was thoughtful and well-read, had stellar personal qualities, and good career/income potential.
    The potential for a true *lasting* class system is obvious.

  • Ymarsakar

    Education cannot be fit under a class hierarchy or monopoly. For example, martial arts techniques, history, traditions, and efficiency is something people learn in a martial arts dojo. Yet it is also self taught at times if a person has the motivation and the tools to do it. It’s always going to be the person that is “educated” that must use the knowledge. If that person is flawed, then the knowledge becomes flawed as a consequence.

  • Ymarsakar

    When institutions such as Ivy League or the Leftist alliance of criminals against humanity get together and attempt to monopolize education, it becomes more and more like cult ideology and dogma. The ability to know things decreases proportional to the rules placed upon how knowledge is gained or used.
    The more localization and caste systems develop, the more useless information becomes. Now it is not something people “know” just something they are told to say they know. Which is fine if you ask Democrats. They always pay attention to what they are told is true, or else.

  • Danny Lemieux

    David Foster says, “One complexity: In the US, the college degree plays a very important role in mate-selection. A high % of college graduates would not consider marrying a non-college-graduate, even if that personal was thoughtful and well-read, had stellar personal qualities, and good career/income potential.”
    That’s true. However, one solution would be to ensure that the trades pay more than most college jobs, which many of them already do. I’m not necessarily talking about a Ph.D. in anthropology marrying a plumber, but a B.S. in Sociology? I think much would have to do with what they have in common. Let’s face it, many people graduating college are pretty much intellectual blanks.
    Someone with an advanced degree might want to be intellectually challenged by some of similar education merit, but I have met plenty of people with no-more than a high school education who could more-than hold their own intellectually. Harry S. Truman never went to college. Neither did my neighbor, a self-employed carpenter and furniture maker, but he can sure hold a fine intellectual discourse, grounded in hands-on practical knowledge, on the issues of the day.

  • 11B40

    Your ruminations require my counter-ruminations.
    First, my favorite personal education anecdote.  Back in 1993, almost 20 years after receiving my first B.A. degree, I returned to college to study printing management. As an older and self-supporting student, I was on a compressed schedule and wanted only to take courses that I felt had a specific benefit to myself. Unfortunately, there was a college requirement that I take an English Composition class and I preferred to take a computer course instead. So, off I went to see my guidance counselor.

    When I arrived, I laid out my case and presented samples of my previous academic and professional writings. Regrettably, my counselor remained not only unconvinced but also somewhat didactic. “Well, sir,” she began, “we cannot let you graduate from Cal Poly not knowing how to write.”

    “Well, then,” I replied, “things have changed since the last time I went to college. Back then, you didn’t get into college not knowing how to write.”


    Second, there has been a leftist campaign going on throughout California and probably most of the rest of the country, for “First Five” public education.  Its proponents would now like to take charge of children at the age of one in spite of the many financial and educational failures of the current K-12 system.  The logic escapes me but perhaps it has something to do with either free child care or very early propagandizement.


    Third, Milton Friedman often spoke about the effects of compulsary public education.  I do not recall his being much of a fan.


    Fourth, I spent my first thirteen years of formal schooling in Catholic schools. In high school, our 90-strong freshman class was divided into three sections.  The “A” section members were all expected to go to college.  The “Bs”, some yes, most no.  The “Cs” were expected not to go at all.  I had two elective courses over the four years, one on Shakespeare and one in Electronics, which were much simpler back in those days.  Our teachers changed class rooms, not the students.  Boys and girls were ensconced in separate departments. It seemed to work quite well back then, but we’re so much smarter than that now.


    Fifth and final, the state of our education system reflects the depths of the corruption that has settled over this countries institutions.  Nothing is as it should be; everything is a front or a distortion.  Madam First Lady is now determined to provide three meals a day to students.  Maybe we should just get a bunch of bunk beds and call them boarding schools.

  • David Foster

    Danny….In most cases, I don’t think the problem is a lack of intellectual companionship, but rather simply a matter of status:
    “Oh, my GOD! How could you even think about marrying a PLUMBER!”
    I think there are a lot of people who would rather be–or marry—a person with a sociology degree working in some vague nonprofit “analyst” job for $25K/year than a person working in the trades making $60K/year.
    This has become an increasingly status-driven society in recent years, and some of the most avid status-seekers are those who think they are above such things.
    The Advice Goddess recently had an item about a trend in NYC in which even people living in very modest apartments on very modest salaries are made to feel like social outcasts if they don’t *hire a bartender* when giving a party.

  • Charles Martel

    Back to Oz:

    The Scarecrow is demonstrably the smartest kid on the block but can’t no respect (including self) because he ain’t credentialed. But once the Wiz gives him a fancy looking diploma, he’s suddenly smart.

    When the left proclaims that everybody should be college educated, it’s really saying college credentialed. “This here paper proves that Ashley showed up at class and swallowed whatever pomo sludge the professors were shoveling that day. You can be assured that Ashley will be sensibly liberal and do whatever you tell her to do.”

    I run into very few truly educated youths these days. For that matter, it’s been 20 years since I’ve had the pleasure. That isn’t to say that the kids I’ve had to work with haven’t been bright, charming and socially capable. But when it comes to an ability to handle concepts outside of what their credentials proclaim them qualified to handle, they become total reactionaries.

    Danny’s statement about the attractiveness of the trades is a good call. When plumbers and electricians are making $100,000 a year, and sociology majors have to hook up with $25,000-a-year jobs as “assistant directors” at non-profits or “deputy outreach coordinators” at government tapewormeries, a blue-collar guy can look awfully good.

  • Danny Lemieux

    David Foster, i fear that you may be right. We actually have some people like that in my (wife’s) family. I suspect that it is such status-obsessed people that are forever miserable and committed to making the rest of us as miserable. I can imagine why somebody like Sarah Palin drives them absolutely wild.
    If these people are in the majority, we really are screwed up beyond hope.
    However, I continue to meet people from all walks of life who have their values set right and look at all people as just people. I count among my close friends carpenters, auto mechanics, attorneys, multi-millionaire entrepreneurs and financiers, and Ph.D. scientists…all of whom get along famously. Frankly, I prefer to make my social circles around people such as these. I just don’t have much time for the “others”.

  • David Foster

    Danny, I’m certainly with you on the kind of people I’d rather spend time around. I don’t think the hyper-snobs are a majority in our society, but there *are* a lot of them and they’re very influential.
    Certain earlier forms of snobbery were opposed and mocked by academics/intellectuals. This time around, the academics/intellectuals are some of the worst players of the snob game.

  • Mike Devx

    > “Oh, my GOD! How could you even think about marrying a PLUMBER!”

    >The Advice Goddess recently had an item about a trend in NYC in which even people living in very modest apartments on very modest salaries are made to feel like social outcasts if they don’t *hire a bartender* when giving a party.

    God, that sounds just like high school… a venue I was glad to leave behind even when I was young.  And a venue I never ever want to see again.

    The thought of adults so status-driven that they never escaped the social milieu of high school leaves me with one word to the wise: RUN!  Run away from them as fast as you can!  Humor them, laugh mildly with them, clap politely when they seek approval… but when you want to spend quality time with other people instead, RUN!

  • Danny Lemieux

    You’re right MikeD. I am always amazed at the number of adults, even highly educated professionals, I come across that never really socially progressed much beyond High School. Sad! I’ve also noticed that they pass on their traits to their kids. Doubly sad!

  • Charles

    Book; for being an “incoherent post” you’ve certainly expressed quite a few well-thought-out ideas.

    First; on “The Trades”.  The high school I attended over 30 years ago had it all. One could take college-prep courses or learn a trade.  We had students who came out of high school with hands-on experience so that they could get a job as a carpenter, an electrician (or at least his helper), work in a machine shop, become a commercial baker or chef, take just a couple of more hours at the local vo-tech school to become a licensed beautician (this was great as it saved a lot of students the cost of the full course load at the vo-tech!). Other high schools in the area did NOT offer all this; so even in my day our high school was a bit of a rarity.

    Sadly, this is all no more.  A few years after I graduated many more “elitists” moved into the area who all felt that their children were ALL college material and saw no need to pay for all this.  In fact, from what I understand the school no longer has metal or work shop.  This is a real shame.  So many of my classmates from high school got their start in some of those classes.  One classmate went on to become an architect; this was no doubt sparked by the drafting class that we were in together.  I remember him being so excited because it was the first time he had a class that wasn’t “book-learning” (even though it was) and it was something that he could relate to (math being put to practical use!).  I only took drafting class for one semester while he took every class that they offered. What guy didn’t like sitting at those oversized drafting tables playing with rulers and compasses and protractors, etc?  I guess today if they even offer something like drafting it is, more likely than not, done on a computer.  Which is okay, and the kids today might enjoy it as well; but, boy was it fun to play with all those unique tools while sitting at the BIG desk!

    Second; my high school did offer “watered-down” versions of the college prep classes for those who were not going to college. When signing up for classes those of us in college prep had to make sure that we didn’t get into the “lower level” of biology, chemistry, etc.  These classes were meant for those who would be going into the trades.  Yes, you’re right, Book, so much of those ideas would not be needed nor desired by those kids; but, the school had the idea that they should at least be exposed to them. Not a bad philosophy in my opinion. It really isn’t much different from those of us in college-prep taking a metal shop or wood-working class for one semester – we would have no need for those skills; but, it was good to be exposed to them.

    Third; Boy, am I so glad that I grew up where and when I did!  I never really experienced the class wars until I attended college (First, and only one of my siblings to get a four-year degree).  My older brothers all went on to become tradesmen of some sort (thanks to the programs at our high school), while my younger brother went to CC for an AA.  (the trade progams at our high school were gone by the time he came along).  Also, while we are mostly blue-collar, many of the marriages in our family (that includes cousins) are what one might call “mixed” marriages; that is one spouse is college-educated while the other is not.  I never really considered this to be unusual; but, I guess it is. In our family divorce is also unheard of – do all these mixed marriages have anything to do with that lack of divorce? Maybe or maybe not – who knows.

    Lastly and somewhat unrelated to your post; I do find it interesting that so many college-educated folks will have no problem trashing working class/tradesmen in front of me; I guess that this is part of the class wars and their assumption (which is wrong BTW!) is that I am a part of their class (being, you know, college-educated and all). Sometimes I love to them tell them that my brother (or cousin or whomever) does whatever it is that the just made fun of.  I love to watch them squirm when I do that!

  • Bookworm

    I live in what is (by my community’s standards) a middle class neighborhood.  Through the beauties of school districting, my children and all their little neighbors attend a school that is (by any standards) in a very wealthy community.  The “popular” kids are extremely cruel about the neighborhood children’s wealth status.  They can only get these ideas from their homes.  That is, we know what conversations take place around those dinner tables (assuming, of course, that the children dine with their parents and not their nannies).

    Fortunately, the children in the neighborhood, my own included, have solid egos, and are able to ignore this class-based aggression, but it’s certainly there.

    I’ve long thought that part of the issue is that a lot of the rich people around here are nouveau — they’ve got to prove to themselves that they made it, which they do by putting others down.

  • David Foster

    I believe much of the current class snobbery is education-based rather than wealth-based. Indeed, I suspect that some of the worst offenders are those who got advanced degrees in some squishy-soft discipline and are now very disappointed at their career situation and prospects…so they hold onto their degrees like a life preserver. Kind of like impoverished aristocracy of another place and time.

  • Danny Lemieux

    That was very thoughtful, Charles. I like your way of thinking.

  • Ymarsakar

    I’ve long thought that part of the issue is that a lot of the rich people around here are nouveau — they’ve got to prove to themselves that they made it, which they do by putting others down.
    You mean like Democrat Kerry and Clintons and Obamas?
    When they say they’ll redistribute cash from the rich,  think they’re putting themselves in a unique position. Teresa Heinz got her money from her Republican husband, the founder of Heinz ketchup. John Kerry, the Democrat, then married into the money through Teresa. This is considered “legit” by the Left. So are they talking about taxing themselves, when they say tax the rich? No way in hell.
    They’re talking about taxing YOU in the middle class, Book, and the rest of the tradesmen who can make enough money to get into the middle class or upper middle class, but will be Put Down like rabid dogs if they ever tried to get into the super rich category.
    The super rich and successful, after all, have college degrees. Preferably elite Ivy League degrees. You can’t have the peasants from the bottom getting as rich, if not richer than the Soroses and Clintons and Obamas. That would be heresy. If the tradesmen get too rich with small businesses, what does that say of normal college educated graduates who HOPE to someday become minions of the Democrats and get an endless flow of ambrosia? That would suck. So they are going to put you down. They’re going to tax your money. Knowing that they got more connections than you, so while they get a -5% decrease in taxes, you get a 20% increase. Then they’ll use the -5% decrease as a justification that the “rich needs to be taxed more”, which means you get another 5% increase.
    The rest of the rich class, like wealthy corporations and what are not, are kept in check through terror tactics. If you pull too much on your leash, SEIU will have a group right on your doorstep harassing you and your family. You’ll bend knee to the “rule makers” or you will be broken.  I’ve read of various incidents in which rich and powerful individuals used lower class crooks and criminals (meaning the greed and gullibility of such) to generate problems that further enrich and empower their own families and their own classes. This is nothing new on the human scale of evil and mendacity. The fact that people don’t even realize that this is happening, let alone such a connection can exist, speaks well of their indoctrination programming.
    This is why whenever people kept talking about the elections being the most important thing ever, I always thought that people were too blind to the reality of power. It wasn’t elections that would consolidate power. It was all the stuff going on that would FORCE an election one way or another. Power is consolidating in our society through subtle manipulations. The elections are like the puppet theater. You see the puppets but they aren’t the real cause. To see what’s going on, you have to go behind the curtains.
    People think things will get better if they just get rid of Obama. They’re kidding themselves. America has been fundamentally corrupted, for decades, by the same alliance of mutual interests and evil individuals. You think you can get rid of them with Obama? That’s like getting rid of your stupid neighbors when your stupid neighbors own the neighborhood and pay the maintenance of 99% of your other neighbors. Not going to happen.

  • David Foster

    OTOH, there are a surprising number of tech company founders and venture capitalists, many of whom *did* get rich through their own work and astuteness and who are not highly credentialed or connected, who consider themselves as “progressives.” A certain amount of this is status seeking–the perception that if you want to be considered young and hip, you’d better be on the Left (probably especially true in California, which is of course the home of Silicon Valley.) Some of it is intellectual arrrogance, somewhat like that demonstrated by so many academics. In some cases, narrowness of interests and education may lead toward going with the flow rather than challenging received opinions.

  • Ymarsakar

    OTOH, there are a surprising number of tech company founders and venture capitalists, many of whom *did* get rich through their own work and astuteness and who are not highly credentialed or connected, who consider themselves as “progressives.”
    It’s the same as Palestinian charities taking advantage of donations meant for helping children, to instead strap bombs on terrorists and kill busloads of children.
    Nobody said technologically adept people were equally adept at manipulating humans or avoiding human manipulation. That’s their fundamental weakness. In fact, that’s the fundamental weakness of all the rich and powerful. While they have the power, they often times lack the ruthlessness and wisdom to make best use of that power. Instead, they allow their power to be borrowed or limited by others.
    Once they elevate themselves beyond the origin point of humble beginnings, they start listening to the pap and arrogance of the elites. The Left corrupts all in time.
    There is no exception to that rule.

  • Ymarsakar
    Another example of what “social classes” exist in America.

  • Tonestaple

    I just did a quick survey of the most famous tech company founders and discovered that they were most often the children of college professors and so, even if the parents were in hard sciences, the kids still grew up in college towns.  Paul Allen’s father worked for UW, plus Seattle is so blue it’s indigo.  Bill Gates’ parents were typical Seattle liberals and quite well-to-do to boot.  Steve Jobs’ father was a college professor as were the fathers of the two Google guys.  The only one who didn’t grow up in a college millieu, as far as I can tell, is Steve Wozniak.  So they’re all very, very smart, ut-bay ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray, if you get my drift.

    Anyway, way more trade education should be made available to kids in high school and maybe even junior high.  People who have a real destiny, born to be a pianist or a carpenter, tend to show their talents at a very early age.  Others may discovery their talent by being exposed to something that excites them, like Charles’ friend with the drafting classes.  And some might just be motivated by work that is (relatively) easy that pays very well.

    The idea that everyone should go to college is absurd and has cheapened a college education to the point that a BA is listed as a pre-requisite for many clerical jobs that truly require on-the-job training.  I think this is a reflection of the steep decline of high school education where people don’t seem to learn much beyond how to fill in “worksheets.”  (I actually saw a recent math test in which the student had to pick the column which contained the right answer.  The entire test could be passed by guesswork so an A in this class is not exactly meaningful.)  So now we have children who can’t read or write graduating from high school and adults who can barely read and write graduating from college because there’s no way in hell that some remedial college courses can make up for 12 years of wasted time.  Lovely system the college professors have given us, isn’t it?

  • David Foster

    Ymar…”Nobody said technologically adept people were equally adept at manipulating humans or avoiding human manipulation”…but rarely if ever done anyone become and remain CEO of a substantial company unless he has pretty good skills at manipulating humans and avoiding undesired manipulation by others.

  • Ymarsakar

    Foster, they’re playing by different rules. What they learned won’t help them.

  • JKB

    First off we should do away with this “educated” label since even many of those coming out with MAs are credentialed but not educated.  We should also acknowledge the great decline in productivity of education in just the last couple of generations.  As this post on the The Great College-Degree Scam points out, we now “educate” for 18 years to achieve the level “education” previously imparted in 12, although now with more credentials.
    But what level of “education” is appropriate for public funding.  First off, we should divide the funded “education” into two parts, life skills and exposure to the wider world.  Life skills are reading, writing, arithmetic, problem solving (critical thinking?), visualizations, basic financial skills, civics, and increasingly basic tool/mechanical skills.  Exposure to the wider world comes in the form of science, literature, arts, economics, etc.  In essence those classes not critical for functioning in the world but that give the student basic understanding of “education” and helps them make informed decisions about future collegiate study.
    While current elementary and secondary education is failing across the board, it is in life skills that the failure is particularly tragic.  Life skills are what the student, when cast adrift upon the world, needs to function in society and reasonably maintain a job.  Far to many students graduate with inadequate reading, writing and math skills making success all the more difficult since they have to go back and teach themselves what is needed to function in the world.  The current curriculum seems particularly hostile to student freely problem solving, learning to visualize alternate perspectives and, at least, US civics.  Basic financial skills and basic tool/mechanical skills used to be taught in the home but are increasingly not imparted to children by parents.  Often since the parent either doesn’t manage their money well or money is not a critical issue so the kids never see a budget.  Basic tool and mechanical skills, such as cooking, simple repairs, even cleaning used to be imparted via chores but with relative wealth facilitating eating out or eating heat and serve along with busy schedules, kids rarely learn and assume cooking duties.  Home repairs and yard work is often contracted out or just done by the parent without involving the children or the parents simply don’t have tool skills so children are never exposed to such skills.
    Automation has also damaged learning.  It may seem appropriate to teach kids a monkey-skill such as CAD/CAM operation but what they really need is old fashioned hand drafting.  While hand drafting isn’t something adults are employed at, it will impart to the student fine motor skills, perspective visualizations, artistic accomplishment. use of their math skills and overall planning.  All skills that are useful beyond drafting but that also will give the student potential beyond keyboarding in a design if they pursue a CAD/CAM job.  The same goes for the hand skills developed by using hand tools to execute a design.  The goal isn’t a perfect final product but rather to give the student the basic skills to understand the process even in they later use machine tools.  Not to mention to be able with confidence to pick up a tool and perform a household repair when they are the adults.
    In short, public funded education should produce a student with skills to meet the daily challenges of life and who has been exposed to the wider world so they can make informed choices as to how to pursue future studies.  Until such time as we can accomplish this task in the mandated education there is little reason to expand public funding of education at the post-secondary level.  There is no reason to fund the increasing number of students in majors that provide no value to society and increasingly no value to the student from the job potential perspective.

  • Tonestaple

    JKB makes an interesting point about drafting that applies to other subjects as well.  Allowing students to use calculators in math means they will never learn to spot a bad answer:  the calculator determines the answer and it’s highly unlikely they are ever taught GIGO.  If someone learns hand drawing and drafting, when something comes out wrong on the computer, they stand a better chance of recognizing it if they already taught their brains how to do it.  With word processors including alleged grammar checking along with spell checking, students are completely prepared to take machines’ word for absolutely everything.  Nothing good can come from this.

  • Charles Martel

    Isaac Asimov wrote a sci-fi short story in the 1940s or 50s that takes place in the far future during a battle in deep space between giant battleships manned by humans on one side and aliens on the other. In this future, all mathematical calculations are done by vast counting machines—computers—that determine where the great battleship guns are to be aimed.

    But disaster strikes when one battleship’s calculators stop functioning. The ship’s commanders are horrified—no calculators = no ability to engage the enemy or fire off protective fussilades.

    Then word comes from one of the deep holds that a solitary gun has been blazing away despite the breakdown, scoring direct hits on the enemy and knocking off would-be attackers trying to get close in. It turns out a crewman has been calculating coordinates in his head, barking orders to the gunners each time he completes a calculation.

    The brass haul the man up to the bridge to interrogate him. They are dumbfounded when he tells them that he’s been doing mental calculations for years and that they’re not at all hard to learn or do. Wisely, they press the man into teaching his “astounding” technique to every gunner on board. The tutoring is a success: Despite the silence of the onboard calculators, the battleship carries out its orders and contributes to a decisive fleet victory. Later on earth, the government authorizes teaching the crewman’s lore to schoolchildren.

  • JKB

    @Tonestaple – Exactly.  The specific training is of value but more importantly for students are the skills you develop along the training.  There is way to much eagerness to rush to the magic box these days.  Heck, many kids don’t even believe they need to know basic information since they can Google it.  Also, so many kids can’t make change. Sadly even with the cash register’s help sometimes.  Of course, adults aren’t much better.  How many can use a road map now that they have GPS?  But plenty will follow the GPS off a cliff.  All because they trust the magic box more than their eyes.
    I remember when in school asking how to spell a word only to be told to look it up in the dictionary.  Logically, this was confusing since you needed to know how to spell it to look it up and we didn’t need to know what its definition was.  But slyly the teachers were teaching us to ferret out a word’s spelling as we tried the possibilities looking up each in turn.  Now you right click and you’re done with no increase in your knowledge.
    In any case, there is plenty of time to use the automated methods to increase your productivity but after you learn the skills to do it manually.

  • Ymarsakar

    To elaborate on what I mean, Obama doesn’t have nearly the level of skills a normal CEO has. A normal one even, not even an exceptionally ambitious or talented one: and by talent I also include charisma.
    Obama has a cunning and a cleverness and a sort of charisma. But because he plays by different rules than the CEOs and the private industry players, Obama was appointed to a power superior to their own.
    If CEOs truly understood manipulation, they would have known exactly what Obama was going to do, because they would have done the same thing in his position. But many CEOs bought into the hype and the cult dogma. They thought the propaganda was actually factually true. Their manipulation skills lacked a certain level. It was incomplete, limited as such by their circumstances and careers. I wouldn’t even call that manipulation, just charisma. Natural charisma that they use to get what they want. But they don’t truly understand how humans are manipulated. Thus they are incapable of protecting themselves from such manipulation. Innate talent is not the same as learned knowledge and expertise.
    One of the reasons why I don’t believe the Left when they talk about CEOs and robber baron capitalists is because their propaganda operations are transparent to me. I know exactly what they are doing. That’s not something you get by successfully competing in the private industry. That’s something you get by studying the Left and revolutionary movements. Political insurgency, essentially. That’s where you learn a truly diverse skillset in human manipulation.
    It’s not a coincidence that most of those who are fiercely antagonistic towards the Left are the Breitbarts and the Andrew Klavans and the former Southern Democrats. They saw personally what Hollywood and the Left had to offer. Because they were part of that clique and alliance. Even if they were poor and weren’t making much money, they would still have that skillset due to their personal experiences.
    Many factions in America would like us to believe that we should be scared of the people manipulation skills of the MIlitary industrial complex, the corporations, Big Oil, Dark Lord Cheney’s whatever Haliburton Imperial XXG corps, and so forth. That in itself is a deception operation. Personally, the Left’s deception and manipulation capabilities are orders of magnitude greater than Cheney or the oil corporations’. But the public just sees the face of the lie and take it as truth.

  • Bookworm

    I helped my son with one of those mindless projects kids periodically get in a public school.  This one involved coloring in the ocean in 20 little earth maps that would be stapled together to create a flip chart showing continental drift.  My son colored in the continents.  Between the two of us, it took 3 man hours.  Talk about a waste of time.  What I did learn, though, is that the small muscles I use for manual writing have pretty much atrophied.  I’ve got great fine motor coordination for typing, but none of handwriting.  (I’ve lost that middle finger callus, too, the one that was a dead giveaway that one was a student or scholar.)

  • Ymarsakar

    Book, lol. So are we literate or semi-literate now that we cannot “write” manually? heh

    Btw, this link is great proof that the Left are still scared of the boogeyman: neo-cons.
    This one’s especially good for Jack Mayos.

  • Ymarsakar

    “This one involved coloring in the ocean in 20 little earth maps that would be stapled together to create a flip chart showing continental drift.”
    In 3 hours they can be given a lecture and dialogue session on the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire lol.